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Top ten scientific hoaxes.
November 13, 2003 10:39 AM   Subscribe

With the 50th anniversary of the exposure of Piltdown Man as a hoax coming next week, The Guardian brings you the top ten science hoaxes.
posted by Ufez Jones (32 comments total)

 
"In the end, nature is the checker," said one of the laboratory's directors. "Experiments have to be reproducible."

That kind of sums it all up.
posted by rushmc at 10:48 AM on November 13, 2003


Crop circles, alien autopsy, signature of god? They're really stretching the word 'science' here as these things started, remained, and ended on the New Age BS territory of kooks and conspiracy nuts from day one. Something tells me Nature never published 'Aliens found! Fox has tape. Its real! We have confirmation from 25 labs from around the world that the DNA is non-terrestrial.' That's more Weekly World News territory.
posted by skallas at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2003


#2 reminds me of how lemmings got their reputation...
posted by jozxyqk at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2003


From the Guardian article: (when the Piltdown man hoax was exposed) the conspiracy theorists went ape. Very appropriate :)
posted by kaemaril at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2003


These are fun. Wonder what the science hoaxes of our age will be.
posted by orange swan at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2003


They missed the greatest science hoax of all time. Whether it's to promote the conservative views on sex education, AIDS prevention, stem cell research or conservation their hoaxes are far more dangerous, and so more 'important' than any of the other 10.
posted by substrate at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2003


what, no cold fusion?
posted by Hackworth at 11:18 AM on November 13, 2003


What's up with that piltdown man site in the original link? Every page on the site leads to a new domain with lots of dashes in it. Is it some sort of giant link farm for google?
posted by mathowie at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2003


The Piltdown Man site is actually a front for the creationists. So while the Piltdown Man is a hoax, and I'll agree with that, the site itself is a smear campaign against evolution.
posted by substrate at 11:34 AM on November 13, 2003


I'm disappointed to see this post from you, Ufez. I thought you'd backed off from your antagonistic, not-gaining-you-any-ground attacks on scientific people.
posted by majcher at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2003


what, no cold fusion?

I don't think cold fusion was a hoax per se; the data weren't falsified, and there was no intentional fraud on the part of the researchers. It was more just a case of poorly designed experiments.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2003


If you look at the sites and the links that are on there, matt, you wind up with a lot of interlinking sites about god and philosophy and Jesus and evolution and DNA. The thing is, I'm not quite sure what their agenda is (which leads me to believe that they're incredibly ineffective in trying to reach out to people for whatever they're going for). I probably should've explored it more before I used it for this post, but it seemed like a nice quick and dirty summation of the Piltdown Man.

I'm disappointed to see this post from you, Ufez. I thought you'd backed off from your antagonistic, not-gaining-you-any-ground attacks on scientific people.

There is no anti-scientific-underground-terror-cabal.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2003


I wasn't calling out on Ufez Jones, I was just pointing out that the Piltdown Man site was in fact a creationist (or intelligent design) site. Sorry if you saw it that way Ufez.
posted by substrate at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2003


ROTFL majcher
posted by rushmc at 12:05 PM on November 13, 2003


Sorry if you saw it that way Ufez.

Not at all, substrate. You simply stated what was what. I still think it's a valid link for quick summation of the Piltdown Man Scam for those that either weren't aware of it or needed a refresher.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2003


How about the recent news item about a religious group "winning" the right to include creationism in public school science textbooks?

Or just the concept of a backwards ass state deciding what is right and what is wrong based on theology and not science and then dictating to its populance what they can learn? So soon we'll have a whole other crop of creationists attempting to subvert a pretty widely accepted and proven theory of where we came from.
posted by fenriq at 12:30 PM on November 13, 2003


Or just the concept of a backwards ass state deciding what is right and what is wrong based on theology and not science and then dictating to its populance what they can learn?

Freedom. Parental choice in education. Should these values not be protected, even if the choices made are "backwards ass" in your opinion?
posted by gd779 at 12:41 PM on November 13, 2003


>Freedom. Parental choice in education.

Tyranny of the majority, better funded and connected groups, etc.

I think its fairly obvious that if you want to teach creationism in school it should be part of a religious studies class that includes the myths of many religions, not just tossed in a biology class because out of fear of evolution.

At one time Freedom also meant keeping the kids AWAY from school and working on the farm as universal education didn't pay the bills, in fact it cost money. Something to think about.
posted by skallas at 12:49 PM on November 13, 2003


Freedom. Parental choice in education.

You've got it. Home school your kids. If you want, teach them that the Earth is flat and that the moon is made of cheese. Lots of parents in other ass-backwards states are doing the equivalent.

Or are you seriously suggesting that parents should have the right to force flat-Earthism and moon-cheesism into the textbooks if they so desired?
posted by ptermit at 1:10 PM on November 13, 2003


Heh. Google search yields no hits for "moon-cheesism." I guess that makes me the founding member of the moon-cheesist movement.
posted by ptermit at 1:15 PM on November 13, 2003


I'm fascinated by hoaxes but found this list dumb. As skallas says, pseudoscience claims about crop circles and Roswell are not the same as scientific hoaxes.

I'd add the Sybil case, and multiple personality disorder generally, though there are still some fringe psychologists (and legions of lazy screenwriters) who believe MPD really exists.
posted by Daze at 1:20 PM on November 13, 2003


Or just the concept of a backwards ass state deciding what is right and what is wrong based on theology and not science and then dictating to its populance what they can learn?

One skirmish won today.
posted by rushmc at 1:23 PM on November 13, 2003


If we're nominating additions, I nominate the "lie detector test."
posted by rushmc at 1:24 PM on November 13, 2003


More on Gould, Teilhard and Piltdown.
posted by goethean at 1:34 PM on November 13, 2003


You've got it. Home school your kids.

Yeah, but if the majority want X, and only a few people want Y, what sense does it make to tell the X's to all homeschool?

Or are you seriously suggesting that parents should have the right to force flat-Earthism and moon-cheesism into the textbooks if they so desired?

Yes, I think that generally they do have that right. Education is a parents responsibility. Schools exist for the convenience of and as a support for the parents.

On the other hand, I misunderstood the issue here. I had glanced over the news story earlier in the day, and I believed it simply allowed Intelligent Design theory to be taught alongside Evolution. That is apparently false, which puts me in a dilemma. On the one hand, it seems very, very wrong for schools to not teach existing science at all. On the other hand, my principles demand supporting the will of the parents. I'd need to give it some more thought before deciding which way I come out on this.
posted by gd779 at 1:42 PM on November 13, 2003


ptermit is not the only moon-cheesist.
posted by trondant at 1:44 PM on November 13, 2003


For more info, visit http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/. I just finished reading the book by the author of the site (link on site) and it was really fun. Also, I'm not sure why the Piltdown man is more well known than the Cardiff giant, but I'd nominate the giant, too.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2003


Yes, I think that generally they do have that right.

Well, I've got to give you points for being intellectually consistent. But I find your position absurd. Even if parents vote that the heart has five chambers, that doesn't make it so; it is a falsehood. Therefore, it shouldn't be taught by the state or put in its textbooks, no matter what the parents want.

ptermit is not the only moon-cheesist.

Dang! I should've known that the administration would be way ahead of me on that one.

posted by ptermit at 2:07 PM on November 13, 2003


gd779, parents shouldn't be the deciding factor in what's taught in schools. If so then the future education would depend on the present educational level of the parents. And in a state like Arkansas, how many went to college, how many got through calculus, how many understand the laws of thermodynamics?

Allowing ignorant people to decide curriculum is a very, very bad idea. And, to fend off the complaints about using the word "ignorant", I am using it as its intended, to denote a person or people that doesn't know what they're talking about. And yes, that does, sometimes, include me. But then I'm not trying to get a well established and accepted scientific theory removed from my school because it doesn't quite fit in with my religious views.
posted by fenriq at 2:13 PM on November 13, 2003


Off-topic: Not all home-schoolers are teaching their kids that the world is flat, the moon is cheese, and God created everything 'cause he's like that. You might as well start saying that everyone from public school turns out to be a drooling, vacant-eyed moron programmed for the 9-to-5 toothpaste-cap-screwer job. I was home taught for two years and it did wonders for me -- not only because I was in an environment where I could learn on my own schedule and in my own fashion, but because along with whatever we got in our textbooks (we had a set lesson plan that was ordered through a home-schooling company), we would also regularly visit the local museums and other educational places. I'm damn sure I learned a hell of a lot more about the world than the kids who were dragged to the museums once every few years.

On-topic: The alien autopsy video shouldn't be really on the list, since I don't think anyone ever took that seriously. And I'm kinda sad that it doesn't include The Cardiff Giant or the Dinosaur/Human footprints. (sorry about that last link -- I tried to find a more reasonable source)
posted by Katemonkey at 2:31 PM on November 13, 2003


Education is a parents responsibility. Schools exist for the convenience of and as a support for the parents.

In what century? Modern schools are mostly about preparing children to assume roles in an employment-based society. The only convenience they realistically offer parents is as tax-paid daycare centers.
posted by rushmc at 4:04 PM on November 13, 2003


Katemonkey - speaking as a high school senior, I think your description of our current crop of graduates is spookily accurate.
posted by Veritron at 6:53 PM on November 13, 2003


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